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Industrial air pollution in Europe costs society €277 - €433 billion

News Published 29 Sep 2021 Last modified 29 Sep 2021
1 min read
Photo: © Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash
Emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases from large industrial sites in Europe cost society between €277 and €433 billion, in 2017, according to a European Environment Agency (EEA) analysis, published today. About half of the annual cost is caused by just 211 facilities, around 2 % of the largest industrial sites in Europe. The European Green Deal and the Zero pollution action plan are opportunities to improve the situation.

The EEA briefing Counting the costs of industrial pollution estimates the damages caused by Europe’s industrial sector, based on emission data from the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR). The analysis is part of EEA’s ongoing activities to assess the impacts of air pollution in Europe, and shows that, despite significant progress in reducing its environment and climate impacts, the societal costs of industrial air pollution remain high.

In total, air pollution and greenhouse gases emitted from large industrial sites in Europe is estimated to have cost society between €277 and €433 billion. This is equivalent to about 2-3 % of the EU GDP and higher than many individual Member States’ total economic output that year, the EEA briefing notes.

A relatively small number of facilities continue to be responsible for most of the quantified external costs.

Moreover, the EEA briefing shows that a relatively small number of facilities continue to be responsible for most of the quantified external costs. Just 211 sites (of the 11 655 facilities reporting emissions of the pollutants included in the E-PRTR in 2017) caused 50 % of the aggregated damage costs related to the main air pollutants and greenhouse gases.

Thermal power plants — mostly running on coal — cause the largest harm to people’s health and the environment: 24 of the top-30 polluting facilities are thermal power stations.

The analysis is based on a technical report by the EEA’s European Topic Centre on Air Pollution, Transport, Noise and Industrial Pollution (ETC/ATNI), using a standard methodology, based on the so-called Impact Pathway Approach. The approach takes into account the amounts and spread of different pollutants from their industrial sources, the effects on people’s health, ecosystems, climate, and farming, for example, and the associated monetary costs.

The European Green Deal and zero-pollution ambition are creating an important opportunity for change. European industry has an important role to play in this shift, reinforcing Europe’s future credentials as a leader in ‘green’ industry, the EEA briefing states.

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